Trends, news, and analysis: catch up on the week's biggest headlines with the Julius Works Blog's weekly roundup, your cheat sheet for staying in the know with influencer marketing.

News and Analysis:

The inclusivity of influencer marketing

Last week, Slate ran a piece on how medical students are the latest group of popular Instagram influencers. In it, the author questions the ethics of young, aspiring doctors who use their influence to advertise products and earn sponsorships. He pointed out that while he has not personally seen any evidence of snake-oil salesmen or the like, he felt that influence derived from a perceived position of expertise used to sell a product could be unethical, especially in the world of medicine.

 

The Julius View

The appeal of influencer marketing is its inclusivity. There is seemingly an audience for everyone, even medical students. The nature of influence, however, is an evolving phenomenon, especially when it comes to expertise. Using quantitative and qualitative data, we can make hypotheses as to why someone has influence.

Julius uses a variety of segmented audience data to help our subscribers determine whether an influencer fits their brand – that includes medical students on Instagram. The point is, whether their followers is taking their word on a sponsorship as a result of their perception as a medical authority or just because they like their content is almost unknowable. Social media is not medical advice – in the same way a personal trainer on Instagram is not your personal trainer.

That medical students are becoming a popular niche on social media speaks to the power of influencer marketing as an inclusive and authentic representation of people and professionals of all kinds, not a debate on the ethics of influencer marketing. Medical students, like any other niche of influencers, have a specific audience that enjoys their unique content. Leveraging the attention their content garners for sponsorships, regardless of why it’s draws such attention, is what makes influencer marketing unique. It pairs brands targeting specific audiences with the people who can speak to them directly – including medical students.

 

The American Meme: The human side of influencers

The American Meme, a documentary about the lives of social media influencers, has made its way to Netflix. It dives into the behind-the-scenes lives of several popular influencers, including thefatjewish, brittanyfurlan, and slutwhisperer.

The documentary unravels the differences between their private lives and social media avatars, touching on topics like cyberbullying, drug abuse, and the ephemerality of influence. To humanize them, the film juxtaposes the attention garnered by the featured influencers with their fame-related fears and desperation to keep it.

 

The Julius View:

Influencers are the currency of our industry. They’re researched, targeted, contracted, and tracked. Their influence, or the attention they can garner for whatever makes them popular, is often exchanged for free merchandise, monetary contracts, and more. Thus, the attention they attract is somewhat equivalent to the value they provide.

As the industry evolves, it’s becoming clearer that influencers, as potent an advertising force as they are, are still people. As Petrana Radulovic of Polygon says, “the nature of the celebrity has and will always be one of dual fascination and resentment from the public.” While the sponsorships, the likes, and the retweets pour in, there’s still a human smiling behind the camera. When the bullying begins, or the contracts expire, the smile often fades.

Influence is indeed impermanent: the value is in what’s trending now, not what trended then. Though social media users expect influencers to be authentic, they also demand fresh and unique content.

Some can keep pace with the tides of change, staying relevant while staying true to themselves. Others, however, will inevitably fade when whatever wave delivered them influence passes. It’s no wonder influencers prefer long-term contracts – and the industry is realizing that their popularity is contingent on their personality and performance. Authenticity is key to achieving better returns on investment, but is only achievable if an influencer feels as if they’re treated like a human, not a sponsored content machine.

 

What’s trending this week:

"I Tried to Make My Dog an Instagram Celebrity. I Failed." - Via The New York Times

“2019 Will Be the Year Influencer Marketing Shifts from Who to How” - Via The Campaign

“Influencer Marketing: Should You Outsource or Do It In-House?” - Via Forbes

“Why Influencer Marketing Is Essential for Your B2B Marketing” - Via CMSWire

“The Instagram Rich List: The Top Paid Fashion and Beauty Influencers of 2018” - Via The Evening Standard

 

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